A falling ballet – Residency Research

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, my March residency with Citymoves Dance Agency SCIO has had to be postponed. I had planned to run a series of movement and community workshops, exploring concepts related to my work ‘A falling ballet.’

Citymoves have very kindly continued to support me during this time. I am hoping to continue some of the research online and explore how the piece may change in reaction to these weeks of isolation and social distancing.

As such, I have created the below survey which can be completed by anyone. The responses may be used to further develop the piece. Before completing the survey, you may (or may not) want to read more about the piece here or read some of the reflections I have written below.

Thanks, and keep safe.

Survey Link

Róisín O'Brien 21.06.19 (photos Sid Scott)-19

On missing class

Many people might be surprised at how little ballet dancers move in class. On screen, I watch Tamara Rojo and two ENB dancers in their newly built studio in East London take class (‘we have to leave our beautiful building today’ Tamara bemoans), and I recognise the same behaviour from the many ballet classes I’ve taken in Edinburgh. Tamara demonstrates each exercise: the dancers stand still, taking it in. Occasionally, their hands map the foot patterns (wrists crossing back and forth, a dynamic ‘swish’ to communicate ‘ballon’). An extremely logical language combined with years of daily class mean the dancers learn what appears complex in seconds. When they don’t immediately get it, there’s almost a glitch. The dancers pause: can you repeat?

There is something about the social framework (even pressure?) of class. On days when I’ve previously not been able to make class, I’ve re-arranged the study, put up a chair and done a ‘barre.’ Sometimes it’s nice to take your own time about things. But seeing as all that I have right now is my own time, I’ve sought out these recordings. I relish having to turn up and adapt: to take instruction and to be present. I even yawn, daydream: the rigour allows me to relax.

I’ve missed the physical expanse of class. And whiIe I quite happily count myself as introverted, I’ve missed even the small interactions . The ‘Good mornings’ as you arrive in the changing rooms, the communal taking away of barres for centre practice, the shared laugh at a teachers’ joke. Turning up for a live stream seems to alleviate some of this – while my leg barely graces the lofty heights of the company’s dancers, I am responding to someone, acknowledging what they are giving to me.

The dancers move to pirouettes, and the first attempt goes poorly. Can we go again, one dancer asks, for pride? Yes, laughs Tamara, we do it for pride. I’ll go again, not for pride, but to feel that familiar strain in my legs, and to find comfort through focus, with others.

Róisín O'Brien 21.06.19 (photos Sid Scott)-7


Thoughts on distance

Looking through the window at The Outside, pigeons can be seen on the ground. With less people hurrying about, the birds do not have to perch up high or even fly (it could be imagined). They circle and peck at litter – their behaviour on the ground almost human like, in the way that they watch and interact with their environment. Though, perhaps, with less haste or direction…

…We all dance in our government mandated daily exercise, as we navigate in and out of the approved two metre distance from other walkers.  The distance becomes sacred, powerful, scary, fraught, humorous. We are either potential violators or decent citizens.  Runners and cyclists are dangerous, frowned upon….

…The guilt of being in a supermarket. Cutting down on unnecessary outings. Gloves, facemasks, homemade, officious, plastic, fabric. We used to meet up without any thought, now every body and touch is dangerous (even the touch of doors, bins, or food is fraught)…

…I imagine the virus as a glow, living on surfaces, transferring constantly to new terrain.

Róisín O'Brien 21.06.19 (photos Sid Scott)-21

Photo Credit: Simon M Scott

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